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THE VIGNELLI CANON
THE VIGNELLI CANONMassimo Vignelli
We thank our friend Sheila Hicks             This book is affectionately dedicated to Lella,for her assistance in editing ...
Josheph Müller-Br           Introduction   At the request of the publisher of this book                          I started...
Part One          SemanticsThe Intangibles   Syntactics                  Pragmatics                  Discipline           ...
Semantics   I have always said that there are three aspects in     the semantic search through a complex process,         ...
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Canon

  1. 1. THE VIGNELLI CANON
  2. 2. THE VIGNELLI CANONMassimo Vignelli
  3. 3. We thank our friend Sheila Hicks This book is affectionately dedicated to Lella,for her assistance in editing of the text. my wife and professional partner. Together we shared our intellectual experiencesBook design:Massimo Vignelli with Beatriz Cifuentes and growing process from the very beginning of our professional lives. Her creative intuition and sharp criticism have enriched my life and have been the structural strength of our collaboration, without which my work would have been worth much less.4
  4. 4. Josheph Müller-Br Introduction At the request of the publisher of this book I started to look in to the meaning of such a publication and recognized that it could become a useful instrument for a better understanding ock of typography in Graphic Design. This little book mann reveals our guidelines - those set by ourselves for ourselves.  In several teaching situations I remarked the lack of some basic typographic principles in young designers. I thought that it might be useful to pass some of my professional knowledge around, with the hope of improving their design skills.  Creativity needs the support of knowledge to be able to perform at its best. Gene Fe It is not the intention of this little book to stifle creativity or to reduce it to a bunch of rules. der It is not the formula that prevents good design ico Willy from happening but lack of knowledge of the F complexity of the Design profession. It’s up to theAlan Fletcher leckh brain to use the proper formula to achieve the aus desired result. With great pleasure I look back to all the moments when I learned something new in typography, either from a Master or from fellow practitioners. To have learned about disciplined design from my Swiss fellows, to have learned about the white space from my American fellows, to have learned Alan Fletch about the forceful impact of type from my German fellows, to have learned about wit from my English fellows, and then even more from fellows er everywhere. That beautiful feeling of enrichment that comes from new discoveries, new ways of doing the same thing better than before. It is my hope that this book may provide that feeling, or in any case confirm and reaffirm those guidelines that we designers love to set for ourselves. 6
  5. 5. Part One SemanticsThe Intangibles Syntactics Pragmatics Discipline Appropriateness Ambiguity Design is One Visual Power Intellectual Elegance Timelessness Responsibility Equity8
  6. 6. Semantics I have always said that there are three aspects in the semantic search through a complex process, Design that are important to me: most of which is intuitive, to infuse the design with Semantic, Syntactic and Pragmatic. all the required cognitive inputs, effortlessly and in the most natural way possible. It is as in music, Let’s examine them one at the time. when we hear the final sound, without knowing Semantics, for me, is the search of the meaning of all the processes through which the composer whatever we have to design. has gone before reaching the final result. Design The very first thing that I do whenever I start a without semantics is shallow and meaningless new assignment in any form of design, graphic, but, unfortunately it is also ubiquitous, and that product, exhibition or interior is to search for is why it is so important that young designers the meaning of it. That may start with research train themselves to start the design process in the on the history of the subject to better understand correct way- the only way that can most enrich the nature of the project and to find the most their design. appropriate direction for the development Semantics, in design, means to understand the of a new design. subject in all its aspects; to relate the subject to Depending on the subject the search can take the sender and the receiver in such a way that it many directions. It could be a search for more makes sense to both. It means to design something information about the Company, the Product, that has a meaning, that is not arbitrary, that the Market Position of the subject, the has a reason for being, something in which every Competition, its Destination, the final user, or detail carries the meaning or has a precise purpose indeed, about the real meaning of the subject and aimed at a precise target. How often we see design its semantic roots. that has no meaning: stripes and swash of color It is extremely important for a satisfactory result splashed across pages for no reason whatsoever. of any design to spend time on the search of the Well, they are either meaningless or incredibly accurate and essential meanings, investigate vulgar or criminal when done on purpose. their complexities, learn about their ambiguities, Unfortunately, there are designers and marketing understand the context of use to better define the people who intentionally look down on the parameters within which we will have to operate. consumer with the notion that vulgarity has In addition to that it is useful to follow our a definite appeal to the masses, and therefore intuition and our diagnostic ability to funnel the they supply the market with a continuos flow of research and arrive to a rather conscious definition crude and vulgar design. I consider this action of the problem at hand. criminal since it is producing visual pollution that Semantics are what will provide the real bases is degrading our environment just like all other for a correct inception of projects, regardless of types of pollution. Not all forms of vernacular what they may be. Semantics eventually become communication are necessarily vulgar, although an essential part of the designer’s being, a crucial very often that is the case. Vulgarity implies a component of the natural process of design, and blatant intention of a form of expression that the obvious point of departure for designing. purposely ignores and bypasses any form of Semantics will also indicate the most appropriate established culture. In our contemporary world form for that particular subject that we can it becomes increasingly more difficult to find interpret or transform according to our intentions. honest forms of vernacular communication as10 However, it is important to distill the essence of once existed in the pre-industrial world.

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